João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva: Papagaio, Camden Arts Centre, London

For their first major show in London, Portuguese artists João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva will present a magical, immersive film installation. Their kaleidoscopic world created by 27 16mm films and two camera obscura installations, takes viewers on an imaginative journey into science, philosophy and religion with each film examining a particular consideration of material, animal or human behaviour that probes at the nature of truth and perception.

Gusmão + Paiva’s work draws attention to reality and the appearance of reality as most of their films are shot in high-speed before being projected in slow motion to reveal ordinarily imperceptible detail. The effect of this is ghostly, with the work asking the viewer how much of their own reality that they are and are not aware of. Each piece contains few contextual cues to time or place, so that journeys, stories, anecdotes or cinematic allegories remain ambiguous, enigmatic and prey to a subjective understanding.

Papagaio translates as ‘parrot’ and the exhibition opens with Glossolalia (Good Morning), 2014: a vivid portrait of a Macaw in flight, beckoning visitors into the exhibition’s mosaic of visual delights. Papagaio (Djambi) 2014, itself was shot in São Tomé and Príncipe, and bears witness to a West African voodoo ritual known locally as D’Jambi. Shot between the artists and participators, intoxicated dancers enter a state of trance in which they channel the spirits of the dead; it is a compelling, whirling piece which stands between performance and film, participation and voyeurism.

Inside the galleries the whirring mechanics of numerous projectors create a soundscape that draws attention to the silence of the films, which are concerned with ‘analogue’ approaches and technologies. Somewhat revolutionary in contemporary art, Gusmão + Paiva conduct any editing or special effects ‘in camera’ and several films contain multiple exposures within the same frame. Finally, the two camera obscura installations investigate the relationship between vision and light, and connects the eye to the camera.

João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva: Papagaio, 30 January – 29 March, Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, London NW3 6DG. For more information visit

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1. João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva, Motion of Astronomical Bodies, 2010 Camera Obscura installation view of Papagaio at Fondazione HangarBicocca, Milan, 2014. Photo by Agostino Osio. Courtesy Fondazione Hangar Bicocca.